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A clusterfk

In an interesting discussion of the genetic structure of human populations, Jeremy Yoder weighs in on Nicholas Wade’s little book of racism.

So with all due respct to Sewall Wright, modern genetic data pretty clearly show that if aliens arrived tomorrow and started sequencing the DNA of planet Earth, they would probably not sort Homo sapiens into multiple genetic subspecies. It is true that people from different geographic locations look different—and we have known that these visible differences have a genetic basis since the first time distant tribes met and interbred. But that interbreeding, and our drive to explore and settle the world, have maintained genetic ties among human populations all the way back to the origin of our species.

As the evolutionary anthropologist Holly Dunsworth notes in her discussion of A Troublesome Inheritance, whether you choose to focus on the visible differences among human populations, or on those deep and ancient genetic ties, comes largely down to a matter of personal inclination. Knowing what I do of evolutionary genetics, and of how our judgments about the visible differences among human populations have shifted over time, I’m far more inclined to think that the social, economic, and cultural differences among human societies are products not of our genes, but of how we treat each other.

Wade’s inclinations are, quite obviously, different from mine. However, comparing Wade’s claims to the scientific work he cites, I find it hard to conclude that we are simply looking at the same data with different perspectives. Time and again, data that refutes his arguments is not only available and widely cited in the population genetics literature—it is often in the text of the papers listed in his endnotes.

By the way, Wade has responded to various criticisms. I would not have thought he could dig himself any deeper, but he succeeded.

Despite their confident assertions that I have misrepresented the science, which I’ve been writing about for years in a major newspaper, none of these authors has any standing in statistical genetics, the relevant discipline. Raff is a postdoctoral student in genetics and anthropology. Fuentes and Marks are both anthropologists who, to judge by their webpages, do little primary research. Most of their recent publications are reviews or essays, many of them about race. Their academic reputations, not exactly outsize to begin with, might shrink substantially if their view that race had no biological basis were to be widely repudiated. Both therefore have a strong personal interest (though neither thought it worth declaring to the reader) in attempting to trash my book.

Holy crap. Nicholas Wade is a journalist who has no standing in any field of biology, and his criticism is that those who have repudiated his book aren’t experts in the very narrow and specific subfield of biology that he has deemed the only one of importance? And that they’ve only published scholarly reviews in science journals, rather than in the primary literature? You know that publishing a tertiary summary in a mass-market newspaper would have far less credibility to scientists, right, especially with Wade’s penchant for getting the science wrong?

Getting a Ph.D. is only the start of a scientific career — scientists spend their whole lives learning and exploring new ideas (that’s why it’s a little weird to see people getting multiple Ph.D.s — it’s really not necessary. Once you’ve got one, you’ve got the tools to be a scholar.) My grad school advisor started out his career with a degree in immunology, and drifted towards neuroscience, and then development, and then genetics as his career progressed — it would be really weird to judge his work as just an immunologist.

Scientists get trained in thinking scientifically more than anything else — something that Nicholas Wade missed.

Comments

  1. zb24601 says

    that’s why it’s a little weird to see people getting multiple Ph.D.s

    Getting two Ph.D.s is a paradox.

  2. zachriel says

    How about basic arithmetic.

    Nicholas Wade: Many other studies have confirmed that roughly 85% of human variation is among individuals and 15% between populations.

    Nicholas Wade: Sewall Wright, an eminent population geneticist, said that a fixation index of 5% to 15% indicates “moderate genetic differentiation” and that even with an index of 5% or less, “differentiation is by no means negligible.” If differences of 10 to 15% were seen in any other than the human species they would be called subspecies, in Wright’s view.

    Those are two different measures. Saying that 15% of variation is between populations is not the same as saying that populations vary by 15%. (Actual genetic differences between people are about 0.1%. See Jorde & Wooding, Genetic variation, classification and ‘race’, Nature Genetics 2004.)

  3. observer17 says

    ***So with all due respct to Sewall Wright, modern genetic data pretty clearly show that if aliens arrived tomorrow and started sequencing the DNA of planet Earth, they would probably not sort Homo sapiens into multiple genetic subspecies. It is true that people from different geographic locations look different—and we have known that these visible differences have a genetic basis since the first time distant tribes met and interbred. But that interbreeding, and our drive to explore and settle the world, have maintained genetic ties among human populations all the way back to the origin of our species.***

    It seems a lot of this debate comes down to what definition you use. Yoder appears to be arguing that races are discrete entities that have no ties with other groups? That doesn’t appear to be how the concept of sub-species or races is used? For instance, a couple of years Jerry Coyne ago commented:

    “In my own field of evolutionary biology, races of animals (also called “subspecies” or “ecotypes”) are morphologically distinguishable populations that live in allopatry (i.e. are geographically separated). There is no firm criterion on how much morphological difference it takes to delimit a race. Races of mice, for example, are described solely on the basis of difference in coat color, which could involve only one or two genes.

    Under that criterion, are there human races?

    Yes. As we all know, there are morphologically different groups of people who live in different areas, though those differences are blurring due to recent innovations in transportation that have led to more admixture between human groups.”

    Also, going back to “Subspecies and Classification” by Smith et al (1997) provides:

    “We regard species as genetically discrete (i.e., separate and independent) populational entities, whereas subspecies are taken as genetically non-discrete (confluent) populational entities. That distinction we regard as axiomatic despite arguments to the contrary (e.g., Barton and Hewitt 1985).
    The non-discrete nature of subspecies is evident from their definition as geographic segments of any given gonochoristic (bisexually reproducing) species differing from each other to a reasonably practical degree (e.g., at least 70-75%), but to less than totality. All subspecies are allopatric (either dichopatric [with non-contiguous ranges] or parapatric [with contiguous ranges], except for cases of circular overlap with sympatry); sympatry is conclusive evidence (except for cases of circular overlap) of allospecificity (separate specific status). Parapatric subspecies interbreed and exhibit intergradation in contact zones, but such taxa maintain the required level of distinction in one or more characters outside of those zones. Dichopatric populations are regarded as subspecies if they fail to exhibit full differentiation (i.e., exhibit overlap in variation of their differentiae up to 25-30%), even in the absence of contact (overlap exceeding 25-30% does not qualify for taxonomic recognition of either dichopatric populations or of parapatric populations outside of their zones of intergradation). Phenotypic adjustment to differing environmental conditions through natural selection is likely the primary factor in divergence of parapatric subspecies, and undoubtedly is involved in some dichopaffic subspecies. The founder effect and genetic drift are involved more in the latter than in the former.”

    The “seventy-five percent rule” goes back to 1949, stating that subspecies classification could be used if at least 75% of individuals can be correctly assigned to their group by inspection.

  4. marcus says

    Hey! He’s been writing about it for years for a major newspaper goddamnit! And he’s, like, read stuff. Lots and lots of stuff! So checkmate all you fucking scientists with all your fancy “degrees” and “education”.

  5. says

    The whole problem here is that drift and adaptations of populations to things like levels of sunlight have little to do with making one “race” “superior” to another. The selective pressures for intelligence, civility, and cooperation (assuming any of these have a relative dominant genetic component over cultural influence) do not track with the average shape of facial bones and skin color, which is what Wade seems to suggest, and which racists (and sexists) like to believe. With or without later mixing of mostly separated populations.

    observer17

    Subspecies and Classification and the 75% rule are operant definitions for proxies of “something” that is (maybe) a useful distinction at the time for something someone is doing. Even more so in laboratory strains of things like mice, even more particularly in the age of direct genetic manipulation. Species themselves are observational phenomena, and not theoretical objects.

    Knowing race or ethnicity can have some minor medical use, such as knowing what to test for first given a set of symptoms that might indicate something like sickle-cell disease. It isn’t going to be a first guess for people native to the Americas or northern Eurasia. (Admittedly, dumb example since any smear will make it apparent under a microscope regardless as to what one is looking for, unless someone can possibly miss this in patients with only one cop of the relevant gene.)

  6. says

    Their academic reputations, not exactly outsize to begin with, might shrink substantially if their view that race had no biological basis were to be widely repudiated. Both therefore have a strong personal interest (though neither thought it worth declaring to the reader) in attempting to trash my book.

    Wow. Since when is “I have a reputation” something that should be disclosed as a conflict of interest? Did Wade declare his own conflict of interest in his reputation for defending his book?

    Wade’s response seems to consist largely of him trying to divine people’s motivations and secret beliefs. I wonder if he considers this using science or “principle”?

  7. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Wade:

    Despite their confident assertions that I have misrepresented the science, which I’ve been writing about for years in a major newspaper…

    Given the horrid state of modern science journalism with regards to accurately representing science, including that which we find in major newspapers, this really does nothing to save him from people pointing out how badly he misrepresents the science he bases his book on.

  8. says

    Despite their confident assertions that I have misrepresented the science, which I’ve been writing about for years in a major newspaper…

    Funniest argument from authority EVER.

    …if their view that race had no biological basis were to be widely repudiated.

    Is anyone really denying that “race” has a “biological basis?” Based on the quotes here, I’d say this Wade guy is trying to lie about his critics’ position. We all understand that the physical differences that separate the “races” have a “biological basis;” we’re just saying those differences don’t matter all that much.

  9. says

    Their academic reputations, not exactly outsize to begin with, might shrink substantially if their view that race had no biological basis were to be widely repudiated. Both therefore have a strong personal interest (though neither thought it worth declaring to the reader) in attempting to trash my book.

    Whereas Wade, whose reputation as a bumbling fool in the world of science is well established, has no such conflict of interest.

  10. Nick Gotts says

    “In my own field of evolutionary biology, races of animals (also called “subspecies” or “ecotypes”) are morphologically distinguishable populations that live in allopatry (i.e. are geographically separated). There is no firm criterion on how much morphological difference it takes to delimit a race. Races of mice, for example, are described solely on the basis of difference in coat color, which could involve only one or two genes.

    Under that criterion, are there human races?

    Yes. – observer17 quoting Jerry Coyne

    No. Few if any human populations have been completely geographically separated for long periods, and those populations making up the “major races” racists are so fond of defining (“Caucasians”, “Mongoloids”, “Negroids”…) have been in continuous contact, and producing common descendants, for as far back as we can trace them. If there are human races, Coyne, or anyone else who claims there are, should be able to provide us with an objectively determined list of those races. Coyne’s article is deeply confused. He says human races exist, but in answer to the (self-posed) question “How many human races are there?”, says:

    That’s pretty much unanswerable, because human variation is nested in groups, for their ancestry, which is based on evolutionary differences, is nested in groups. So, for example, one could delimit “Caucasians” as a race, but within that group there are genetically different and morphologically different subgroups, including Finns, southern Europeans, Bedouins, and the like. The number of human races delimited by biologists has ranged from three to over thirty.

    That’s very good evidence that the concepts of race or subspecies are not a useful way to deal with human genetic or geographical variation. In fact, of course, human variation is not “nested in groups”, and one could not delimit “Caucasians” as a race, without drawing arbitrary lines.

    The “seventy-five percent rule” goes back to 1949, stating that subspecies classification could be used if at least 75% of individuals can be correctly assigned to their group by inspection.

    What an absurdly subjective criterion. There are plenty of full species which cannot be distinguished without examining their chromosomes, and plenty of groups within local populations that can be readily distinguished by casual inspection (e.g. different colour phases of leopards). I note that in 1949, there was no possibility of looking at the pattern of genetic differences within a species.

    I tried putting the first few words of the Smith et al (1997) reference (really, observer17, why didn’t you give a reference that actually identified the paper?). The results are interesting. The paper is:
    Smith, H., Chiszar, D., and Montanucci, R. (1997). Subspecies and Classification. Herpetological Review 28(1):13-16,
    but the only places google finds it are
    a MetaFilter Q&A page, an evolution/creationism discussion website (run by “evolutionists”, according to creationists), on a page discussing “race and skin color” and on a far right blog. I wonder where observer17 found it.

  11. Nick Gotts says

    “In my own field of evolutionary biology, races of animals (also called “subspecies” or “ecotypes”) are morphologically distinguishable populations that live in allopatry (i.e. are geographically separated). There is no firm criterion on how much morphological difference it takes to delimit a race. Races of mice, for example, are described solely on the basis of difference in coat color, which could involve only one or two genes.

    Under that criterion, are there human races?

    Yes. – observer17 quoting Jerry Coyne

    No. Few if any human populations have been completely geographically separated for long periods, and those populations making up the “major races” racists are so fond of defining (“Caucasians”, “Mongoloids”, “Negroids”…) have been in continuous contact, and producing common descendants, for as far back as we can trace them. If there are human races, Coyne, or anyone else who claims there are, should be able to provide us with an objectively determined list of those races. Coyne’s article is deeply confused. He says human races exist, but in answer to the (self-posed) question “How many human races are there?”, says:

    That’s pretty much unanswerable, because human variation is nested in groups, for their ancestry, which is based on evolutionary differences, is nested in groups. So, for example, one could delimit “Caucasians” as a race, but within that group there are genetically different and morphologically different subgroups, including Finns, southern Europeans, Bedouins, and the like. The number of human races delimited by biologists has ranged from three to over thirty.

    That’s very good evidence that the concepts of race or subspecies are not a useful way to deal with human genetic or geographical variation. In fact, of course, human variation is not “nested in groups”, and one could not delimit “Caucasians” as a race, without drawing arbitrary lines.

    The “seventy-five percent rule” goes back to 1949, stating that subspecies classification could be used if at least 75% of individuals can be correctly assigned to their group by inspection.

    What an absurdly subjective criterion. There are plenty of full species which cannot be distinguished without examining their chromosomes, and plenty of groups within local populations that can be readily distinguished by casual inspection (e.g. different colour phases of leopards). I note that in 1949, there was no possibility of looking at the pattern of genetic differences within a species.

    I tried putting the first few words of the Smith et al (1997) reference (really, observer17, why didn’t you give a reference that actually identified the paper?). The results are interesting. The paper is:
    Smith, H., Chiszar, D., and Montanucci, R. (1997). Subspecies and Classification. Herpetological Review 28(1):13-16,
    but the only places google finds it are a MetaFilter Q&A page, an evolution/creationism discussion website (run by “evolutionists”, according to creationists), on a page discussing “race and skin color” and on a far right blog. I wonder where observer17 found it.

  12. Nick Gotts says

    “In my own field of evolutionary biology, races of animals (also called “subspecies” or “ecotypes”) are morphologically distinguishable populations that live in allopatry (i.e. are geographically separated). There is no firm criterion on how much morphological difference it takes to delimit a race. Races of mice, for example, are described solely on the basis of difference in coat color, which could involve only one or two genes.

    Under that criterion, are there human races?

    Yes. – observer17 quoting Jerry Coyne

    No. Few if any human populations have been completely geographically separated for long periods, and those populations making up the “major races” racists are so fond of defining (“Caucasians”, “Mongoloids”, “Negroids”…) have been in continuous contact, and producing common descendants, for as far back as we can trace them. If there are human races, Coyne, or anyone else who claims there are, should be able to provide us with an objectively determined list of those races. Coyne’s article (you can find it on his blog, dated 2012/02/08, I can’t link because I’m having problems getting this comment through and think it may be a link problem) is deeply confused. He says human races exist, but in answer to the (self-posed) question “How many human races are there?”, says:

    That’s pretty much unanswerable, because human variation is nested in groups, for their ancestry, which is based on evolutionary differences, is nested in groups. So, for example, one could delimit “Caucasians” as a race, but within that group there are genetically different and morphologically different subgroups, including Finns, southern Europeans, Bedouins, and the like. The number of human races delimited by biologists has ranged from three to over thirty.

    That’s very good evidence that the concepts of race or subspecies are not a useful way to deal with human genetic or geographical variation. In fact, of course, human variation is not “nested in groups”, and one could not delimit “Caucasians” as a race, without drawing arbitrary lines.

    The “seventy-five percent rule” goes back to 1949, stating that subspecies classification could be used if at least 75% of individuals can be correctly assigned to their group by inspection.

    What an absurdly subjective criterion. There are plenty of full species which cannot be distinguished without examining their chromosomes, and plenty of groups within local populations that can be readily distinguished by casual inspection (e.g. different colour phases of leopards). I note that in 1949, there was no possibility of looking at the pattern of genetic differences within a species.

    I tried putting the first few words of the Smith et al (1997) reference (really, observer17, why didn’t you give a reference that actually identified the paper?). The results are interesting. The paper is:
    Smith, H., Chiszar, D., and Montanucci, R. (1997). Subspecies and Classification. Herpetological Review 28(1):13-16,
    but the only places google finds it are a MetaFilter Q&A page, an evolution/creationism discussion website (run by “evolutionists”, according to creationists), on a page discussing “race and skin color” and on a far right blog. I wonder where observer17 found it.

  13. Nick Gotts says

    I’m posting this without any links, as I’m having problems getting it through.

    “In my own field of evolutionary biology, races of animals (also called “subspecies” or “ecotypes”) are morphologically distinguishable populations that live in allopatry (i.e. are geographically separated). There is no firm criterion on how much morphological difference it takes to delimit a race. Races of mice, for example, are described solely on the basis of difference in coat color, which could involve only one or two genes.

    Under that criterion, are there human races?

    Yes. – observer17 quoting Jerry Coyne

    No. Few if any human populations have been completely geographically separated for long periods, and those populations making up the “major races” racists are so fond of defining (“Caucasians”, “Mongoloids”, “Negroids”…) have been in continuous contact, and producing common descendants, for as far back as we can trace them. If there are human races, Coyne, or anyone else who claims there are, should be able to provide us with an objectively determined list of those races. Coyne’s article is deeply confused. He says human races exist, but in answer to the (self-posed) question “How many human races are there?”, says:

    That’s pretty much unanswerable, because human variation is nested in groups, for their ancestry, which is based on evolutionary differences, is nested in groups. So, for example, one could delimit “Caucasians” as a race, but within that group there are genetically different and morphologically different subgroups, including Finns, southern Europeans, Bedouins, and the like. The number of human races delimited by biologists has ranged from three to over thirty.

    That’s very good evidence that the concepts of race or subspecies are not a useful way to deal with human genetic or geographical variation. In fact, of course, human variation is not “nested in groups”, and one could not delimit “Caucasians” as a race, without drawing arbitrary lines.

    The “seventy-five percent rule” goes back to 1949, stating that subspecies classification could be used if at least 75% of individuals can be correctly assigned to their group by inspection.

    What an absurdly subjective criterion. There are plenty of full species which cannot be distinguished without examining their chromosomes, and plenty of groups within local populations that can be readily distinguished by casual inspection (e.g. different colour phases of leopards). I note that in 1949, there was no possibility of looking at the pattern of genetic differences within a species.

    I tried putting the first few words of the Smith et al (1997) reference (really, observer17, why didn’t you give a reference that actually identified the paper?). The results are interesting. The paper is:
    Smith, H., Chiszar, D., and Montanucci, R. (1997). Subspecies and Classification. Herpetological Review 28(1):13-16,
    but the only places google finds it are a MetaFilter Q&A page, EvCForum, an evolution/creationism discussion website (run by “evolutionists”, according to creationists), on a page discussing “race and skin color” and on a far right blog, “Amerika” (with the “r” reversed). I wonder where observer17 found it.

  14. A Hermit says

    Someone in the comments at Huffpo left a link to this excellent review by sometime Jerry Coyne co-author H. Allen Orr

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/jun/05/stretch-genes/?insrc=toc#fnr-5

    I think Orr does a good job of laying out the problems with Wade’s book in a way that even a scientifically semi-literate like me can appreciate. Plus it’s full of little gems like this one:

    “This isn’t to say that Wade’s argument is necessarily wrong but it is to say that an important feature of a plausibility argument is plausibility.”

  15. A Hermit says

    OK I just noticed that Orr’s review is mentioned right at the start of Yoder’s article….

    Note to self; read first, post later…

  16. John Horstman says

    @marcus #4: That jumped out at me too. Given the utterly abysmal state of science reporting, the qualification is rather damning. That Wade thinks it’s a point in his favor rather nicely demonstrates what’s wrong here.

  17. stevenjohnson2 says

    I read a library copy of the first five chapters of the book. I was appalled to discover how dubious those were. It was particularly interesting to discover that war is the natural state of chimpanzees, according to Wade. Others might have found the discovery of wars of extermination in prehistory more interesting, though. The graphics are dubious. For a work supposedly concerned with the effects of genetics, there is no discussion of the “racial” differences between Neandertals, Denisovans and modern humans, or the supposed consequences of differences in modern populations due to the differences in admixtures.

    But beyond the general tendentiousness of supposed facts littered throughout, the handling of genetic drift and natural selection is confused. The phrase “genetic drift” is used on rare occasions, but at not time does Wade even consider that it might have any effects. The famous bottleneck in human populations (which Wade says was 50 000 yrs ago, while I recall it was 70 000 yrs ago by previous estimates…and no. Wade doesn’t source this assertion) means that genetic drift was accelerated yet he has no comments on it. All variation is regarded as effects of natural selection!

    The major continental races are not ecotypes, for the good yet simple reason that continents are not ecozones. It is not possible in any event to identify the three or five or seven principal races by gross phenotype differences. It is not even possible to identify them without statistical analysis of hundreds of genetic markers. The few cases found where genetics and natural selection might make a difference, such as adult lactose tolerance or high altitude tolerance, do not overlap with the supposedly principal races.

    There is nothing good about this book, and those who have defended the basic concept of race and Wade’s exposition of it are wrong.

  18. Crimson Clupeidae says

    So, how hard would it be to find a statistical genetics expert to tell Wade he’s full of shit?

  19. says

    How do different breeds of dogs or cats compare with human races? The morphological differences are more pronounced. Are there also bigger genetic differences or is the difference similar to that in humans? I’m curious and it would be amusing if people started saying dog breeds were social constructs. Is anyone familiar with the topic?

  20. Holms says

    Nicholas Wade is a journalist who has no standing in any field of biology, and his criticism is that those who have repudiated his book aren’t experts in the very narrow and specific subfield of biology that he has deemed the only one of importance?

    Additionally, he accused his critics of being biased against his ‘research’ due to them having a vested interest in opposing it. Conveniently forgetting the fact that he stands to make financial gain off the back of his hypothesis because he is publishing a fucking book on it.

    Truly, this man is made of hypocrisy.

  21. Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    Jason Bosch:

    How do different breeds of dogs or cats compare with human races? The morphological differences are more pronounced. Are there also bigger genetic differences or is the difference similar to that in humans? I’m curious and it would be amusing if people started saying dog breeds were social constructs. Is anyone familiar with the topic?

    What are “human races”? It’s kinda hard to compare social constructs largely based on skin colour with groups of animals bred for genetic homogeneity.

    I’m disinclined to do your research for you, but if you do some research I think you will find that:
    a) Dogs are freaks. Serious freaks. The variations in phenotype are staggering. If the go feral, they tend to revert to the same dingo-ish phenotype though.
    b) Cat breeds are more families than anything else.
    c) Human biodiversity does not correspond to any social construct of race (except for skin colour – and even then it’s rather shoddy, arbitrary and varies according to current patterns of ethic discriminations (you’ll find most variation in the status of people from the Mediterranean area and western Asia)).

  22. David Marjanović says

    Funniest argument from authority EVER.

    Exactly. Someone should submit it to Failblog.

    Races of mice, for example, are described solely on the basis of difference in coat color

    Funny how that’s never done in humans.

    Come on, people! I don’t make eumelanin! Shouldn’t that count for something? ;-)

    The number of human races delimited by biologists has ranged from three to over thirty.

    To 66 even.

    The paper is:
    Smith, H., Chiszar, D., and Montanucci, R. (1997). Subspecies and Classification. Herpetological Review 28(1):13-16,
    but the only places google finds it are [...]

    That’s because Herpetological Review is one of those small, quaint journals that still don’t publish online:

    Availability of Back Issues
    Current and back issues of most numbers of Herpetological Review are available from the SSAR Publications Secretary (e-mail:ssar@herplit.com). Please visit http://www.herplit.com/SSAR for availability and prices for all SSAR publications.”

    (I’ve put HTML tags into the e-mail address to hide it from spambots. That’s why it’s not a link.)

    How do different breeds of dogs or cats compare with human races?

    They’re reproductively isolated…

  23. unclefrogy says

    as was said @5
    while there has never been any doubt that there are humans that look different and that the differences are hereditary. The other traits that racists are so fond of are not limited nor indicated by what people look like.
    The big difference between journalism and science is one of emphasis and approach.
    While a journalist main focus is in telling the story, using what ever facts and language needed to tell the story, science’s main focus is on reading the story that is reveled by the facts and trying to interpret the data as to any significance.
    Many journalists seem to think that theirs is the superior method for arriving the truth which they of course reveal.
    Just because the sentences are readable and the story is consistent and holds together does not mean that it matches objective truth.
    uncle frogy

  24. says

    that’s why it’s a little weird to see people getting multiple Ph.D.s — it’s really not necessary. Once you’ve got one, you’ve got the tools to be a scholar

    Let the record reflect that the tools of knowledge-building in some fields (say, physical chemistry and philosophy) are sufficiently different that a second Ph.D. is required. (Philosophy, sadly, is a field in which experts in other disciplines have felt free to hold forth without any further preparation, often making a hash of it in the process.)

    Also, I have a hunch that Nicholas Wade takes science journalists more seriously than professional philosophers. I submit that he himself is an example that should make that judgment hard to swallow.

  25. twas brillig (stevem) says

    I’ve never heard dog “breeds” referred to as dog “races” (not meaning “racing of dogs”, by any means). Is it just a linguistic anomaly that two different words actually mean the same, when referring to different subjects?
    Seems to me that different “breeds” of dogs, meet all the criteria we assign as different “races” when referring to humans.
    So are humans a multitude of breeds of humans, or do dogs have multiple races?

  26. Zeppelin says

    I remember being confused and annoyed as a teenager when ticking my “race” on a form during my exchange year in England (which I found a bit iffy to begin with, but I guess they primarily get their statistics that way), I was apparently supposed to refer to myself as a “Caucasian”. Which as far as I can tell is based on some long-discredited 19th century theory of racial origins?
    Back then I just asked someone and was duly baffled when I was informed that I was Caucasian.

    Is that still a thing on forms, or has it been changed? Apart from being an odd misnomer, it seems kind of offensive to actual Caucasians! Because in terms of racist discrimination I’d expect most Georgians or Chechens would be lumped with Brown People, or maybe All Those Slavs. Not with White People, which “Caucasian” is basically a pseudo-scientific euphemism for.

  27. David Marjanović says

    I’ve never heard dog “breeds” referred to as dog “races” (not meaning “racing of dogs”, by any means). Is it just a linguistic anomaly that two different words actually mean the same, when referring to different subjects?

    In German there isn’t a separate word for “breed”, so we use “race” instead.

    I was apparently supposed to refer to myself as a “Caucasian”. Which as far as I can tell is based on some long-discredited 19th century theory of racial origins?

    Yep.

    in terms of racist discrimination I’d expect most Georgians or Chechens would be lumped with Brown People

    They look completely European, paler than many Mediterraneans.

    or maybe All Those Slavs

    Those have all counted as “White”/”Caucasian” since WWII; after all, many of them are blond, blue-eyed, and gleaming white.

  28. says

    twas brillig
    The term ‘race’ isn’t much used for animals anymore, but yes, in that context ‘race’ and ‘breed’ are synonymous. There is, however, considerably less variation amongst the human ‘races’ than there is among, for instance, dog breeds.
    Jason Bosch
    No. If humans were dogs, we’d all be one breed. The difference between black people and white people (for instance) is about as big as the difference between a buff coat cocker spaniel and a tricoloured cocker spaniel.

  29. Reginald Selkirk says

    Zeppelin #27: I was apparently supposed to refer to myself as a “Caucasian”…

    I would find that slighly less annoying than forms I have filled out in the USA where the option was “White.” White is a colour, not a race. I am descended from a variety of Celtic and Germanic tribes.

  30. Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened says

    Here in the UK we get “White British” “White Irish” etc., but that’s about all the concession they grant.

  31. parasiteboy says

    Nick Gotts@10&11&12&14 (but not 13 that was only a test:)

    If there are human races, Coyne, or anyone else who claims there are, should be able to provide us with an objectively determined list of those races.

    All of taxonomy (and all levels of taxonomy) have some amount of subjectivity. The placing of organisms into taxonomic categories are also organism specific (bacteriologist do not use the same criteria as mammalogist) and is usually reached by consensus among the scientist that study the taxonomy of a specific group.

    That’s pretty much unanswerable, because human variation is nested in groups, for their ancestry, which is based on evolutionary differences, is nested in groups. So, for example, one could delimit “Caucasians” as a race, but within that group there are genetically different and morphologically different subgroups, including Finns, southern Europeans, Bedouins, and the like. The number of human races delimited by biologists has ranged from three to over thirty.

    That’s very good evidence that the concepts of race or subspecies are not a useful way to deal with human genetic or geographical variation.

    So is your objection to the concept of a subspecies in general or to subspecies used in humans, because the same thing that Coyne said above could be used to describe Pacific salmon species and their subspecies that reproduce in specific streams with some straying of genetics in between streams

    In fact, of course, human variation is not “nested in groups”,

    Human variation is nested in groups and is dependent on things such as the amount of inbreeding.

    and one could not delimit “Caucasians” as a race, without drawing arbitrary lines.

    Sure we could. We could collect morphometric data, see which data best distinguishes each group and run a multivariate analysis to see if they separated into different groups that were statistically significantly different (but this does not mean there is a biologically significant difference). Scientist do this all the time for other species, usually for conservation purposes.

    The “seventy-five percent rule” goes back to 1949, stating that subspecies classification could be used if at least 75% of individuals can be correctly assigned to their group by inspection.

    What an absurdly subjective criterion.

    It’s no less subjective than using an 8-10% genetic difference in the 18s rRNA or 28s rRNA genes of conspecific (morphologically indistinguishable) parasites to suggest that they are be different species.
    But as I said above there is some inherent subjectivity in taxonomy at all levels.

  32. parasiteboy says

    Time and again, data that refutes his (Wade’s) arguments is not only available and widely cited in the population genetics literature—it is often in the text of the papers listed in his endnotes.

    If (and when) this is true, there is no reason to take anyone’s thesis seriously.

  33. anbheal says

    33 Parasiteboy– I think the objection is to who chooses which criteria and why. You suggest morphological characteristics, but that is how we judge “race”, so you’re gaming the outcome.

    Let’s look at the dog comparison (and by the way, in Spanish there’s no distinction with “breed”, so in Mexico the breeds are called “razas”). The “groups”, as defined by the AKC might be closer to the human view of human “races”. So one group hunts (pointers and setters), one group retrieves, one group flushes (spaniels), one group guards, one group herds, one group does physical labor (Saint Bernards, huskies, etc.), one group attracts fleas from the bodies of rich ladies (toys and miniatures), one group rats (terriers), and one group just looks pretty.

    How would our human views of “race” be different if we applied the dog racial characteristics to human societies? What if we grouped people by communitarianism versus aggression, by capitalism versus socialism, by altruism versus greed? How about by height (Croats and Dinkas would be one race, Inuit and Cambodians would be another)?

    Dogs are grouped behaviorally, why not people? Ah, because we’ve all been socialized to believe that the physical differences are paramount. An Akita and a Doberman look different, but they do the same thing, so they can identify each other as kindred races. An Irish Setter and a German Shorthaired Pointer do the same thing, they can hunt together happily — but we’d categorize them as morphologically distinct “races”, because that’s what we have been institutionally programmed to do, for centuries. I wouldn’t be surprised if an alien culture presumed that Liz Warren and Rand Paul were a different sub-species, or that American soldiers in full body armor are a different sub-species from the unarmed peasants they slaughter.

    People say “race” is biological because of how they’ve been taught to define race. What if we defined race differently? And more accurately, in terms of describing the genuinely important differences between human cohorts, that have absolutely nothing to do with what they kinda sorta look like?

    Why, then race would seem like something social and cultural and learned, rather than an eye color or hair consistency or pigmentation.

  34. Amphiox says

    Sure we could. We could collect morphometric data, see which data best distinguishes each group and run a multivariate analysis to see if they separated into different groups that were statistically significantly different (but this does not mean there is a biologically significant difference). Scientist do this all the time for other species, usually for conservation purposes.

    When scientists do this process with humans, the results that they get do not reproduce the “classical” race categories to which “caucasian” belongs. One could redefine “caucasian” as a term to fit one of these statistically produced categories, but then it would no longer mean the same thing as the term “caucasian” means in the older contexts, so what would be the point?

    Furthermore, when subspecies are defined in other species, they are found to biologically meaningful because multiple different analyses using different criteria and different traits all produce similar classification categories, and indeed converge on a single one.

    But when we do the same analysis on human variation, we do not see such convergence on a single set of classification categories. Instead, every time we change the set of traits we use for the analysis, we get completely different classifications.

    And something which is “statistically significantly” different but not significantly different in a biologically meaningful way is not significant, period. It is just playing with numbers.

  35. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    FTR: Although I understand some of what distinguishes P-Chem from other condensed-matter physics or other chemistry disciplines, “Physical Chemistry” as a label has always baffled me.

    Is the rest of chem “Extradimensional Chemistry”? “Photonic & Neutrino Chemistry”? [even then…non-physical?] What?

  36. Amphiox says

    It’s no less subjective than using an 8-10% genetic difference in the 18s rRNA or 28s rRNA genes of conspecific (morphologically indistinguishable) parasites to suggest that they are be different species.

    That criteria has utility. Usage of a subjective criteria is a COMPROMISE for the sake of utility. If no better objective criteria is available, and there is a practical need for having distinguishing criteria, then a subjective one is used until such time as a better, objective one is found and validated.

    It is the UTILITY that justifies whether or not a subjective criteria should or should not be used.

    What utility does racial classification humans have that would justify the compromise of using a subjective criteria?

  37. mbrysonb says

    Like the Bell Curve, it seems to me Wade’s book was pre-bunked by The Mismeasure of Man a long time ago…

  38. says

    CD #37
    As I understand it, Physical Chemistry focuses on applying concepts from physics to chemistry, e.g. the thermodynamics of chemical processes, rather than the chemical outcomes of said processes, for instance.

  39. parasiteboy says

    anbheal@35, Amphiox@36&38

    The point of my comments @33 is that we use these same methods and subjective judgements, across the biological sciences. If you object to them being used on humans then you need to object to them being used at all to be intellectually consistent.

  40. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    nonono…

    I really get it, Dalillama. I just think it’s one of those weird quirks of language that are logical from the inside, but when looked at from outside the group that uses language in a specific way appears to mean something very different.

    It strikes me as funny because it perverts the intuitive understanding of outsides. It’s not beyond my educated understanding, however.

  41. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If you object to them being used on humans then you need to object to them being used at all to be intellectually consistent.

    Then you don’t understand the immorality of misapplying them to humans to degrade a portion of the human race, which is the only reason they are used.

  42. mikeyb says

    I don’t have a problem selecting genes and picking apart what statistical sets of variants occur with populations of people in different regions of the world, and finding coherent clusters which one could designate as races, or groups if one likes. The problem is to then make generalizations about this information. First there is the typology trap, the idea that if one is a member of one of these clusters, it follows that you can make broad generalizations about the group based on the clustering, essentially forgetting that these are clusters of populations not typological points defined by their mean values. Secondly this can lead to another trap called group selection, in which one posits that these defined clusters – races, essentially function as competing groups, so broad generalizations about behaviors can be extrapolated from the behaviors of these groups. Except for some members of the tea party, people don’t generally function like competing groups based primarily upon race identity, which would be necessary for group based genetic traits to extrapolate to explain underlying social behaviors. But it is even worse than that given that we know so little about how collections of genes translate even on the individual level to social behaviors Wade seeks to explain.

    For the life of me, without overwhelming data, I don’t know why anyone would want to go out on a limb to support what could be interpreted as or easily mistaken for a racist biological theory and not expect a great deal of backlash. This is not about being “tough minded, facing unpleasant facts,” it’s about not being an idiot and having pretty substantial facts before daring to make such blatantly offensive claims. Wade should have seen all of this coming. Did he not read any of the entirely observed backlash to the tone deaf and very similar hyper simplistic trite argument made in the The Bell Curve. Guess not.

  43. parasiteboy says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls@43

    Then you don’t understand the immorality of misapplying them to humans to degrade a portion of the human race, which is the only reason they are used.

    I do and there is no justification for racism. We do use race as part of our demographic data to see how our populations are changing. This data can be used by racist, but can also be used by universities to track how well they are increasing the diversity of their student population. Eventually we will (hopefully) interbreed enough and eliminate any trace of race.

    My comments are strictly about how the science is used and applied to other organisms in the exact same way that people are objecting to here when it is used in humans. From a scientific standpoint on race I would currently agree with what Coyne wrote, but again this does not justify racism.

  44. parasiteboy says

    anbheal@35

    You suggest morphological characteristics, but that is how we judge “race”, so you’re gaming the outcome.

    Nope. Races or subspecies are really just our way of categorizing microevolutionary changes before they become fixed macroevolutionary changes. So, if I am “gaming the system” then there are other scientist doing the same thing when they try and conserve different populations an organism that are morphologically distinct but show only a small amount of genetic diversity. The opposite can be true in which there is no discernible morphological difference, but the genetic difference is large.

    Also dog breeds are a poor analogy to races or subspecies of other organisms. Dogs have undergone heavy artificial selection and not the natural processes of microevolution.

  45. ck says

    The Dunning–Kruger effect really is merciless. Wade is so ignorant of his ignorance, he thinks he’s more of an expert than the real experts who have come out to say he’s wrong.

  46. parasiteboy says

    Amphiox@36

    When scientists do this process with humans, the results that they get do not reproduce the “classical” race categories to which “caucasian” belongs.

    OK. Let me know the citations and I’ll look them up.

    One could redefine “caucasian” as a term to fit one of these statistically produced categories, but then it would no longer mean the same thing as the term “caucasian” means in the older contexts, so what would be the point?

    Whether or not you decide to keep the old term is going to be dependent upon how much the new analysis changes the old hypothesis.

    Furthermore, when subspecies are defined in other species, they are found to biologically meaningful because multiple different analyses using different criteria and different traits all produce similar classification categories, and indeed converge on a single one.

    This is true sometime, but not always. Phenotypic difference do not always agree with genotypic differences. Even within a genetic analysis you can, for example, have diverging classifications from the same DNA data using different computer algorithms giving you inconclusive results.

    But when we do the same analysis on human variation, we do not see such convergence on a single set of classification categories. Instead, every time we change the set of traits we use for the analysis, we get completely different classifications..

    This is not unique to human evolution.

    And something which is “statistically significantly” different but not significantly different in a biologically meaningful way is not significant, period. It is just playing with numbers.

    That’s what I said @33

    …statistically significantly different (but this does not mean there is a biologically significant difference).

    So don’t get angry at something I didn’t say.

  47. parasiteboy says

    Amphiox@38

    That criteria has utility. Usage of a subjective criteria is a COMPROMISE for the sake of utility. If no better objective criteria is available, and there is a practical need for having distinguishing criteria, then a subjective one is used until such time as a better, objective one is found and validated.

    It is the UTILITY that justifies whether or not a subjective criteria should or should not be used.

    No need to yell, I can hear just fine. Before you get your undies in a bunch next time follow the comments back through the thread. My specific comment was directed at a comment made by Nick Gotts@12 who was commenting on a part of a herpetology paper originally posted by observer17@3 a paper that talked about defining subspecies.

    What utility does racial classification humans have that would justify the compromise of using a subjective criteria?

    As I said @45 it can be used for demographic data to increase racial diversity.

  48. Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    Parasiteboy:

    As I said @45 it can be used for demographic data to increase racial diversity.

    And exactly why would you want to do that?

    The real question here is whether your word sallad hides your internalised racism from your conciscosness or if it is a conscious attempt at hiding you racism from us.

    Anyway, the correct unit for population diversity from origin is and will always be ethnicity. There’s no need to pull out your racism in public…

  49. unclefrogy says

    sure you can use any criteria you want to group people in and use it for racial diversity but from what I am understanding from this discussion it would be at best superficial to any underlying biology.
    If the goal is really to increase diversity and the social mobility that would result I think it would be more effective to use socioeconomic criteria for the analyses than the nebulous and indistinct pseudo scientific racial bench marks.
    When you look at the history what you are looking at is the result of Colonialism, Imperialism, economic and social oppression and racism nothing more.

    uncle frogy

  50. originalantigenicsin says

    There are like five or six links on this blog to posts by anthropologists explaining why the concept of biological races is not a smart idea. Yet there are also still people in this thread claiming that biological races are totally a real thing without adressing any of these posts even once. So everyone in this thread who claims biological races are real and a useful concept, could you please scroll up, click on the link to Jeremy Yoder’s post and read it? And then come back and discuss it? Additionally could you please give a short definition of what a race is, how many races there are and what their specific characteristics are?

    But since I’m pretty sure nobody will actually do this, I hereby declare human races to be defined by HLA haplotype and CCR5-D32 status. Once I have figured out all the combinations I will anounce the number of races and roll the dice to determine the master race for the first year. After that year the races will be taking turns (because everything else would be really unfair).

  51. Nick Gotts says

    parasiteboy@33,

    All of taxonomy (and all levels of taxonomy) have some amount of subjectivity. The placing of organisms into taxonomic categories are also organism specific (bacteriologist do not use the same criteria as mammalogist) and is usually reached by consensus among the scientist that study the taxonomy of a specific group.

    And in the human case, there is, quite obviously, no consensus.

    So is your objection to the concept of a subspecies in general or to subspecies used in humans, because the same thing that Coyne said above could be used to describe Pacific salmon species and their subspecies that reproduce in specific streams with some straying of genetics in between streams

    It’s to its use in cases where it is not useful, such as our own species. Whether it is useful in the case of Pacific salmon depends on how well it captures the pattern of genetic diversity in Pacific salmon. In general, I suspect it will have less and less scientific utility as knowledge of patterns of genetic diversity increases – i.e., I think it is largely a relic of pre-sequencing taxonomic practice.

    Human variation is nested in groups

    So, you’ll be able to supply us with an objectively justifiable tree of those nesting groups, won’t you?

    and one could not delimit “Caucasians” as a race, without drawing arbitrary lines.

    Sure we could. We could collect morphometric data, see which data best distinguishes each group and run a multivariate analysis to see if they separated into different groups that were statistically significantly different

    That doesn’t make even superficial sense. You appear to be saying that we have predefined groups (“which data best distinguishes each group”) on the basis of which we decide what morphometric data to collect, then run a multivariate analysis to see if you recover the groups you first thought of, having chosen the data you use to maximise the chances of doing so. Even if you (bizarrely) consider this a valid approach, you’ll still be left with individuals and local populations that are intermediate between your groups, so that assigning them to one or the other will depend on exactly which of the indefinitely large number of types of possible morphometric data (and why morphometric rather than genetic?) you choose to employ. Try considering it from a commonsense point of view. Suppose you make a journey from northernmost Norway, down through Russia and the Caucasus, into Iran and then eastward through Pakistan and down to the southern tip of India. Where do “Caucasians” end?

    But as I said above there is some inherent subjectivity in taxonomy at all levels.

    So, do you consider it subjective that all living human beings are assigned to one species, Homo sapiens?

    #49

    What utility does racial classification humans have that would justify the compromise of using a subjective criteria?

    As I said @45 it can be used for demographic data to increase racial diversity.

    Here you’re making the elementary error of confusing biologically defined subspecies with socially defined races or ethnic groupings. (Yes of course these socially defined groupings often correlate with morphological features – claiming that calling human “races” social categories involves denying this is a favourite straw person, which Coyne deploys.) The (valid) point of collecting data on the latter is entirely unrelated to the question of whether it is scientifically useful to define human subspecies.

  52. Ichthyic says

    If you object to them being used on humans then you need to object to them being used at all to be intellectually consistent.

    but… we’ve already established that different classification rules are used for different species, and with good reason.

    even you singled dogs out as bad examples to apply standard racial rules to because of the artificial selection involved.

    microbiologists tend to classify single celled organisms differently than zoologists do, and with good reason.

    your argument is specious.

    I wonder what your point REALLY is here, because it sure as hell seems like all you’re doing is trying to see how much time you can waste.

    boring day for you?

  53. Nick Gotts says

    #53;

    You appear to be saying that we have predefined groups (“which data best distinguishes each group”) on the basis of which we decide what morphometric data to collect

    should be;

    You appear to be saying that we have predefined groups (“which data best distinguishes each group”) on the basis of which we decide what morphometric data to analyse

  54. stevenjohnson2 says

    Reading through quickly, it appears that no one remembered (not even myself) to comment on the way that Wade will use genetic “differences” in non-coding DNA when it suits his purposes. You know, the junk DNA. For analysis of race, only alleles count. Junk DNA is great for analyzing descent precisely because it is unaffected by natural selection. Equivocating between allelic differences and junk DNA differences falsifies the conclusions. As noted above, one estimate for the genetic variation between humans is 0.1%

    There isn’t the slightest evidence that there has been natural selection of such intensity to generate genuine phenotypic races, instead of the deceitful phenotypic/genotypic statistical artifact Wade and people like Coyne and Pinker want to inflict upon us. Religious proclivities have inhibited the study of the natural abortion rate, but even the most conservative guesses of 50% powerfully suggest that by far the most intense natural selection takes place in the womb. Biologists are cordially invited to identify the continental ecozones in there.

  55. David Marjanović says

    bacteriologist do not use the same criteria as mammalogist [...] consensus among the scientist that study

    Completely off-topic linguistic question: are you from one of those places in Texas where the plural of breakfas is breakfases? Or is this simply not limited to Texas?

    Furthermore, when subspecies are defined in other species, they are found to biologically meaningful because multiple different analyses using different criteria and different traits all produce similar classification categories, and indeed converge on a single one.

    This is almost never done. Usually, somebody does one analysis using one method and one set of criteria, classifies subspecies accordingly, and then other people accept this or not.

    It’s pretty much the same with species, BTW.

    The point of my comments @33 is that we use these same methods and subjective judgements, across the biological sciences. If you object to them being used on humans then you need to object to them being used at all to be intellectually consistent.

    I do, obviously.

    Also dog breeds are a poor analogy to races or subspecies of other organisms. Dogs have undergone heavy artificial selection and not the natural processes of microevolution.

    Uh, of course they have. The selection has just been unusually strong and gone in unusual directions.

    When scientists do this process with humans, the results that they get do not reproduce the “classical” race categories to which “caucasian” belongs.

    OK. Let me know the citations and I’ll look them up.

    Start here.

    the correct unit for population diversity from origin is and will always be ethnicity

    That’s a remarkably naïve, late-19th-/early-20th-century thing to say.

    Ethnicity is cultural. It has been called “not fate but a goal”.

    Look at all the peoples in the Migration Period of Europe: most of them are nothing but some leader figure saying “I’ll go plunder in this general direction, who’s coming with me?”.

    So, do you consider it subjective that all living human beings are assigned to one species, Homo sapiens?

    This is one of the not so many cases where all or almost all species concepts happen to agree: we all interbreed, resulting in fertile hybrids; we interbreed to the extent that we can’t be said to be evolving in different directions (definitely not now, probably not 500 years ago either – though I wonder about the native Tasmanians); the morphological differences are rather trivial; the genetic diversity is pathetic, famously less than that of one troop of 55 chimpanzees; and so on and so forth.

    Once we get to Neandertalers, Denisovans, and the diversity called Homo erectus and sometimes H. ergaster, different species concepts start giving different answers.

    microbiologists tend to classify single celled organisms differently than zoologists do, and with good reason.

    There’s no good reason for why the most widely used species criterion in microbiology is 70 % or more genome identity – a criterion that would famously lump all primates into the same species.

    No wonder they have to deal with thousands upon thousands of “strains” for which no agreed-upon nomenclature exists.

  56. Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    Ethnicity is cultural. It has been called “not fate but a goal”.

    By all means! And you need to be rather careful how you apply it. My point, that I die not spell out too clearly is that *if* you’re going to measure diversity among humans, ethnicity is a far superior measure than delusions of race.

    Ethnicity is fluid, and always dependent on context. It is always defined in relation to the other. Still, it makes far mor sense than “race”.

    And basically all of human diversity is more or less a result of “I’ll follow that bloke”.

  57. parasiteboy says

    David Marjanović@57
    Thanks for the link. It made me realize that some people may think my comments are in support of the typological model of human variation which I do not support

    a system for classifying people based on the false assumption that humans can be unambiguously placed into “races” on the basis of selected traits such as skin color, hair form, and body shape. Advocates of this approach incorrectly believe that there are more or less distinct populations of people from different geographic regions. Negroid, Mongoloid, and Caucasoid are examples of typological groupings.

    This type of model may not even support some subspecies that have overlapping (or neighboring) geographies, as there would not be any sharp delineation between populations. When you move from one area to another and there would be a gradual increase in one subspecies and a gradual decrease of another with the hybrids of the subspecies mixed in the area of overlap.

    What I would expect to see from a genetic study of humans is exactly what is shown in Yoder’s blog post of Tishkoff et al. (2009) PCA, which is the clustering of different groups from different geographical areas (or an older figure in tree form http://anthro.palomar.edu/vary/vary_2.htm). This type of clustering can also be seen in multivariate morphometric analysis of cranial measurements

    We can call them populations instead of races, which is what it seems like anthropologist would like to do, and move the discussion of human diversity away from the typological model. This would at least move people without a scientific background away from things that could be viewed as endorsing racism, but we would be naive to think that this will stop racist from trying to say that their ancestors are better than others. They’ll just move it back from their race is better to their population is better.

  58. parasiteboy says

    For the record, I think that anything below a species taxonomic classification should be viewed in the meta-population framework where the amount of gene flow between populations ranges from 0 (no gene flow) to 1 (complete random mating amongst population). But since I am not in a scientific field where I could publish such an idea, I don’t have a platform.

  59. parasiteboy says

    Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)@50

    The real question here is whether your word sallad hides your internalised racism from your conciscosness or if it is a conscious attempt at hiding you racism from us.

    I’m not sure what you find to be word salad (since you did not specify), so I don’t know if you just don’t understand what I said because of some lack of knowledge on your part or because I was not making myself clear.

    But to answer the rest of your sentence, you could just read what I wrote @45 there is no justification for racism (ie. there is no justification to say that any race is intrinsically better than any other)

    As for

    As I said @45 it can be used for demographic data to increase racial diversity.

    And exactly why would you want to do that?

    My point was that we use such demographic data to implement such things as Affirmative Action and the Voting Rights Act. Most basic demographic data consist of age, gender, race and ethnicity.

  60. parasiteboy says

    Nick Gotts@53
    The pacific salmon species example includes both morphological and genetic data. Actually some variation in some species subspecies is only seen in the genetic data and not in the morphological data.

    You seem to completely misunderstand the nestedness that Coyne is talking about. For example you are an individual in a house. If there are other people in your house then you are an individual nested within the population of your household. We keep going up like this with a household is nested in a street which is nested in a town which is nested in a county, ect. This is the type of hierarchical nestedness that Coyne is talking about and this occurs in any species with multiple populations.

    I really did flub my explanation in regards to collecting morphometric data and using a multivariate analysis to analyze the data. Let me try again. What typically happens is that you collect morphometric data and then you analyze it using something like PCA (principal components analysis). This analysis will give you which measures (if any) are most useful in separating individuals in your data set. After your analysis you can then decide to stop taking certain measurements if they do not help in seperation of your data into groups. You may decide to keep collecting marginally significant measures as they may become significant in the future when sample size is increases or when a study is repeated in the future.

  61. parasiteboy says

    David Marjanović@57

    bacteriologist do not use the same criteria as mammalogist [...] consensus among the scientist that study

    Completely off-topic linguistic question: are you from one of those places in Texas where the plural of breakfas is breakfases? Or is this simply not limited to Texas?

    I’m not sure if you are trying to make a joke about what you perceive as my level of intelligence (while showing your superior intelligence). If you are then, it’s an epic fail when you say something like this

    There’s no good reason for why the most widely used species criterion in microbiology is 70 % or more genome identity – a criterion that would famously lump all primates into the same species.

    No wonder they have to deal with thousands upon thousands of “strains” for which no agreed-upon nomenclature exists.

    Regardless, I’ll be happy to explain why this is wrong if you want me to.

    As for dog breeds

    Also dog breeds are a poor analogy to races or subspecies of other organisms. Dogs have undergone heavy artificial selection and not the natural processes of microevolution.

    Uh, of course they have. The selection has just been unusually strong and gone in unusual directions.

    Open up any college introduction to biology textbook and you’ll see dog breeds (and/or cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, and kale which all come from the same species) as an example of the difference between artificial and natural selection. They are both selection, but artificial selection removes the selection pressures involved in natural selection. If you don’t understand that then you do not understand natural selection (and maybe sexual selection).

  62. Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    there is no justification for racism (ie. there is no justification to say that any race is intrinsically better than any other)

    And yet, here you are trying to further racism.

    My point was that we use such demographic data to implement such things as Affirmative Action and the Voting Rights Act. Most basic demographic data consist of age, gender, race and ethnicity.

    This reads basically as “we must further racism to combat racism”.

    No, you don’t.

    It’s quite possible to have an effective anti-racism legislation without furthering incorrect, incoherent and reified notions of human races. That demographic data is built up around racism is an argument for changing your system, not for furthering the notion that there are human races.

    One rather huge failing of yours is that you define racism as narrowly as possible. It’s a quite common survival tool of people with racist ideas that fail to recognize their internalized racism. What you give is the dictionary definition of racism. It’s not useful. I would even say wrong. Most people would say that racial discrimination is racism. Here’s how the UN convention defines racial discrimination:
    the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

    To be clear – I don’t think it’s a conscious choice of yours. I just think you’re not aware how deeply steeped you are in racism and how much your worldview is built up around the idea that human races are an actual thing, or at least a coherent concept.

    Terms have no meaning of their own. The highest standard is that we should only use a term if we got a coherent definition that’s actually useful. And when speaking of humans we should always strive for this highest standard (at least in my opinion, if not always practice). Most definitions of “race” fails both on coherence and usefulness. I find it most useful to define “race” as something like “perceived inborn attribute that’s the basis of discrimination under racism”.

    To justify any other definition you need to show both that the definition has a legitimate purpose, and that it’s coherent. The backdrop of huge amounts of racism in society further makes it an imperative that the purpose can’t be reached in any other way.

    If you fail to observe this, you are furthering racism.

    So far, you’ve used three lines to try and justify why you should divide humans into races (or any other placeholder word you might want to use). You seem to fail to grasp that there’s a difference between establishing that there’s genetic difference between humans that (roughly and awkwardly) follows historical routes of migration (if you say anybody is denying this I want quotations) and making that difference relevant in a social context.

  63. parasiteboy says

    stevenjohnson2@56

    There isn’t the slightest evidence that there has been natural selection of such intensity to generate genuine phenotypic races, instead of the deceitful phenotypic/genotypic statistical artifact Wade and people like Coyne and Pinker want to inflict upon us.

    Before you start throwing Coyne (or possibly Pinker) under the same bus as Wade, why don’t you actually look at what Coyne wrote about Wades book.

    And before someone accuses me of being Coyne’s lapdog (I only read him when someone here links to him), I actually got to his page about Wades book by following originalantigenicsin@52 suggestion to go back and read Yoder’s post. A link in Yoder’s post lead me to a post by Eric Michael Johnson. This then lead me back to Coyne’s post about Wade’s book.

    For analysis of race, only alleles count.

    Alleles tend to most useful at species levels and above and microsatellite and SNP’s tend to work best at the population level, but I’ve never come across your assertion.

  64. parasiteboy says

    Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)@64

    It’s quite possible to have an effective anti-racism legislation without furthering incorrect, incoherent and reified notions of human races.

    I’m all ears. According to the UN convention definition of racial discrimination that you give you cannot use “descent, or national or ethnic origin” to address past wrongs and make some kind of reparations. So what’s your plan?

  65. Anri says

    parasiteboy:

    I’m all ears. According to the UN convention definition of racial discrimination that you give you cannot use “descent, or national or ethnic origin” to address past wrongs and make some kind of reparations. So what’s your plan?

    …to correct current wrongs perhaps?
    For instance, if you find an instance of apparent racism – such as some country in which dark-skinned people get tougher jail time than light-skinned people for the same basic crime.

    It’s quite possible to understand that the biological basis for human races is pretty much bunk, while also understanding that some people don’t get that. Hint: some of those people are commenting right here in this thread.

  66. stevenjohnson2 says

    parasiteboy@65: Coyne specifically praised the first five chapters of Wade. And in the comments, a Pinker tweet praising Wade’s treatment of race, while hesitant about his speculations, was quoted. Coyne said he thought the tweet was a good summary of his own judgment.

    My assertion that junk DNA doesn’t count is pretty much like observing water is wet. You’ve figured out my secret…yes, I am the secret identity of Captain Obvious.

  67. Gnumann+,not bloody bleeding Gnumann (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun) says

    I’m all ears. According to the UN convention definition of racial discrimination that you give you cannot use “descent, or national or ethnic origin” to address past wrongs and make some kind of reparations. So what’s your plan?

    Reparations? What are you actually suggesting here?

    As Anri said – the prime focus should be to right current wrongs. For two reasons – firstly – if we set out to correct the past wrongs of racism, we’d never finish. Secondly, before addressing past wrongs we’d better take a look at current wrongs, there’s plenty to work with (Take a look at the current makeup of US prison population for example).

    When it comes to righting current wrongs, the convention is not a hindrance to legitimate positive action (see article 1 number 4).

    And my point of bringing up the convention was mainly as an example of notions of race not being the only unit of racism. And that overt political ideological racism isn’t the only racism.

    That being said, the convention is pretty racist in itself, and could use a major makeover. (Not going to happen anytime soon though – there’s plenty internalized racism among the policy makers).

  68. throwaway says

    If, as parasiteboy says, that all classifications are subjective then there is no truth-value in distinguishing classifications within homo sapiens sapiens.

    So what, exactly, are you arguing for, parasiteboy?

  69. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    The case for reparations is not based on any definition of race. It is based on the past behavior of the governments of the states and the federal government. If one can document having been turned down for an FHA loan, for example, of having had a close relative lynched (execution w/o due process), this is a tort and could be litigated. The tricky part would be to counter any statutes of limitations that have expired, but one could argue that litigation was not possible given the legal climate of the US in the past.

    The case for reparations post 1864 is actually quite good, as the discrimination did indeed violate the US constitution. Ironically, the case for reparations for slavery would be weaker, as slavery was the law of the land. This would likely have to be adjudicated before an international body.

  70. parasiteboy says

    Gnumann+, who lost his shotgun but will never loose his + (verging on the humane, fun-loving and open edge of radfem-ism)@69
    The important part of the UN definition that you give (@64) is that the first part

    the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin that has

    Leads to the second part

    the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

    From this definition I can see why you would consider Affirmative Action* a racist policy. Some quick googling showed me that the Anti-Defamation League makes the same argument that you (and Anri@67) are making.

    Other groups like the NAACP and the ACLU support AA, so I assume that you would call them racist organizations (and lump them and myself in with groups like the KKK (yes I know that they appose AA, but they support other racist policies)). Here’s he ACLU’s statement on AA

    The Racial Justice Program actively supports affirmative action to secure racial diversity in educational settings, workplaces and government contracts, to remedy continuing systemic discrimination against people of color, and to help ensure equal opportunities for all people. As part of this commitment, we are working to defend affirmative action in states that are threatened for a civil rights rollback.

    *I agree that their are other things that we could do to decrease and eventually eliminate things like affirmative action that removes race/ethnicity. From an educational standpoint** elimination poverty so that children are not malnourished when their brains are undergoing important cognative development. Also, moving the funding of schools in the US away from local communities so that poor neighborhoods don’t have underfunded schools and all schools will have the same level of funding per student.

    **When I originally brought up the collection of demographic data for colleges, I wasn’t actually thinking of AA at the time. Some universities will go out and actively recruit in minority area’s to try and increase the diversity of their student populations. The demographic data they collect will allow them to see how successful they are in that recruiting process

  71. Gnumann+, who lost his shotgun but will never loose his + (verging on the humane, fun-loving and open edge of radfem-ism) says

    I can see why you would consider Affirmative Action* a racist policy.

    I don’t.

    I just don’t use the term “affirmative action”. Positive differential treatment is not racist.

    What’s racist is the furtherance of the incorrect and largely incoherent concept of human races.

    What you don’t seem to grok here is that race=/=population group=/=ethnic group.

  72. parasiteboy says

    Gnumann+, who lost his shotgun but will never loose his + (verging on the humane, fun-loving and open edge of radfem-ism)@73
    So you think the implementation of things like AA and the Voting Rights Act is racist because it uses racial criteria?

  73. parasiteboy says

    throwaway@70
    If your going to take me to task for something at least make it something I actually said. What I actually said @33 was

    All of taxonomy (and all levels of taxonomy) have some amount of subjectivity.

    That’s a far cry from

    all classifications are subjective

    All scientific research has some subjectivity to it. As we get more data on a subject that subjectivity will decrease. That’s just the way science works, it’s not completely objective.

  74. parasiteboy says

    stevenjohnson2@66
    My question about your assertion @56 that

    For analysis of race, only alleles count.

    was a serious science question in relation to the biological races of animals (not humans).
    Microsatellites may be part of an allele or junk DNA and we don’t always know under what category they fall into. So I was wondering where you came across this assertion.

  75. parasiteboy says

    I should add to my comment @75 that I am talking about biology. You seem to have less subjectivity in chemistry and physics.

  76. Gnumann+, who lost his shotgun but will never loose his + (verging on the humane, fun-loving and open edge of radfem-ism) says

    All of taxonomy (and all levels of taxonomy) have some amount of subjectivity.

    That’s a far cry from

    all classifications are subjective

    The latter is the correct one though.

    So you think the implementation of things like AA and the Voting Rights Act is racist because it uses racial criteria?

    This is quite laboursome to answer since I’m not entirely sure what question your asking. And I’m not sure you understand either.
    The implementation of these acts in American law certainly didn’t add any racism that wasn’t there. They helped mitigate effects of racism. I don’t know the text, the structure and the tools of the acts, but if (and I imagine they do) treat race as an attribute people actually possess they are furthering racism.

    It’s perfectly possible to identify the victims of racism and grant them full rights and protection from discrimination (both positive and negative protection) within a legal framework without treating race as anything else than the loathsome delusion it is.

    Race as a construct has never been demonstrated to have any other use than to discriminate and other. By treating it as a valid concept you are maintaining a tool of discrimination.

  77. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    All scientific research has some subjectivity to it. As we get more data on a subject that subjectivity will decrease. That’s just the way science works, it’s not completely objective.

    You don’t make me think you are a scientist. You are only pretending to be one on TV. There is nothing about race that is scientific. Scientists knew that forty years ago when I was an undergrad, and even genomics verify that conclusion. That you think race is meaningful in anyway today is tragic. Or, you are afraid you are discriminated against if you don’t have the privileges of old. That is simply your problem, not ours.

  78. parasiteboy says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls@79
    Follow the comment back to what it was originally referring to @33, which was a comment about taxonomy in general across all taxonomic levels, and not specifically about races in humans. If you disagree with that then you don’t understand how taxonomic research is conducted.

  79. parasiteboy says

    Let me repeat what I wrote @59

    We can call them populations instead of races, which is what it seems like anthropologist would like to do, and move the discussion of human diversity away from the typological model. This would at least move people without a scientific background away from things that could be viewed as endorsing racism, but we would be naive to think that this will stop racist from trying to say that their ancestors are better than others. They’ll just move it back from their race is better to their population is better.

    I’m fine with studying human biodiversity at the population level and removing the word race from the conversation because of the negative history of the word separating people into groups with the purpose of ranking them from superior to inferior.

    But what people here seem to have failed to understand is that race is used synonymously with populations (but not subspecies as subspecies is a recognized taxonomic term and race is not) in animal biology. Search on google scholar, animal race and microsatellite, and you’ll see recent articles will use the term race and apply it to animal populations.

    So as I see it, the discussion should be about not applying the term race to human populations which I would agree with and it is something that will hopefully eventually go away.

  80. parasiteboy says

    I came across some definitions that would be useful to all of us in future discussion of this and other biological topics. They are from Futuyma’s book, Evolution 3rd Edition (http://sites.sinauer.com/evolution3e/glossary.html), which is used at the university level.

    Population A group of conspecific organisms that occupy a more or less well defined geographic region and exhibit reproductive continuity from generation to generation; ecological and reproductive interactions are more frequent among these individuals than with members of other populations of the same species.

    Race A poorly defined term for a set of populations occupying a particular region that differ in one or more characteristics from populations elsewhere; equivalent to subspecies. In some writings, a distinctive phenotype, whether or not allopatric from others.

    Subspecies A named geographic race; a set of populations of a species that share one or more distinctive features and occupy a different geographic area from other subspecies.

    Species In the sense of biological species, the members of a group of populations that interbreed or potentially interbreed with one another under natural conditions; a complex concept (see Chapter 17). Also, a fundamental taxonomic category to which individual specimens are assigned, which often but not always corresponds to the biological species. See also biological species, phylogenetic species concept.

    The one thing that I would like to point out, and is captured a bit in the definitions, it that there is no completely objective criteria within and amongst the definitions because it is all on a continuum as you move from a population to a species (and beyond).

  81. parasiteboy says

    Gnumann+, who lost his shotgun but will never loose his + (verging on the humane, fun-loving and open edge of radfem-ism)@78

    With the AA and Voters Right Act, AFAIK the government uses race/ethnicity as part of their implementation, so this would fall under your comment @63 when you criticized what I said and described it as

    This reads basically as “we must further racism to combat racism”.

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